Geneva Steel was a steel mill located in Vineyard, Utah, United States, founded during World War II to enhance national steel output. It operated from December 1944 to November 2001. Its unique name came from a resort that once operated nearby on the shore of Utah Lake.
The Geneva Steel mill was constructed with federal funds from November 1941 to December 1944 by Columbia Steel Company and United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel). Vineyard, Utah, was chosen as the location for the new plant because iron ore, coal, limestone, and other resources necessary for primary steel making are located in nearby areas of Utah; and because Utah Valley is far inland, away from possible Japanese attack on the West Coast.
Geneva Steel operated as a US government facility until June 1946, when it was sold for $47.5 million to U.S. Steel, a vast underbid compared to the mill's estimated $144 million value.
The plant was an integrated steel mill. Raw materials were shipped in by rail, processed into steel and steel products, and then reshipped by rail and truck to their final market. The plant, in addition to having all of the facilities for primary steel making, included on-site conversion of coal into coke, plus other facilities for post-processing of coal byproducts, including production of inorganic fertilizers. Blast furnaces converted raw iron ores into pig iron, and final conversion into steel was via open hearth furnaces. Rolling mill facilities for forming steel into plate, pipe, and some structural shapes were also located there.
Economic importance and continuing viability
During its operation Geneva Steel was important to the Utah County economy, providing thousands of jobs and attracting many ancillary businesses to the area. As time went on, however, the distance from the plant to any major steel market, increasing labor costs, foreign imports, and the general decline of manufacturing industries in the United States contributed to the decay of the business.
Early in 1987 the mill shut down temporarily, but reopened later after the mill was spun off from US Steel and purchased by local business interests. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Students from Brigham Young University (BYU) protested the pollution, particularly the particulate matters, emitted from the steel operation. They carried signs at the entrance of BYU football games that included slogans like, "Pollution makes God barf." These protestors were threatened by steel workers and were marginalized as the Utah Valley community sided with Geneva Steel.
The Cannon Brothers (Christopher and Joseph) bought the plant with the help of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. They tried to keep it open for as long as possible. However, in March 1999 the company filed bankruptcy and reorganized with a $110 million loan via the Emergency Steel Loan Guarantee Act, but the reorganization attempt failed. Geneva Steel filed bankruptcy again and shut down permanently in November 2002.
There is some controversy regarding their alleged pollution of Utah Lake. Contaminated groundwater under a former Utah steel mill may be moving toward Utah Lake according to a recent report conducted by a Salt Lake City engineering company. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is investigating the CH2M Hill study of the Geneva Steel site to determine if contaminated groundwater is moving beyond the facility boundary. The facility site and environmental contaminants are being remediated under EPA's voluntary Brownfields cleanup program.
U.S. Steel operated the site in the early 1940s, producing millions of tons of steel for the war effort. After the war, U.S. Steel ran the company until 1987 when it sold the plant to Geneva Steel Company. During its years of operation, the facility produced wastes contaminated with human carcinogens and hazardous substances including arsenic, lead, zinc, nickel, acids, PCBs and petroleum products. Arsenic, ammonia, and benzene recently showed up in a number of groundwater monitoring wells around the perimeter of the plant. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is still unsure, however, if toxic chemicals are definitely moving toward Utah Lake.
Liquidation of Geneva Steel's substantial assets is still ongoing and may have broad effects on Utah County's future development.
Geneva Steel's 1,750 acres (7 km2) of land were sold in November 2005 for $46.8 million to Anderson Geneva, a sister company to Anderson Development, which plans to reuse the land for a wide range of purposes, including the FrontRunner commuter rail corridor. The land must undergo environmental cleanups before any development can occur, with most of the cost paid for by U.S. Steel. The mill equipment will not remain because it has been sold for $40 million to the Chinese firm Qingdao Iron & Steel Group.
Most of Geneva Steel's water rights were sold to the Central Utah Water Conservancy District in May 2005 for $88.5 million, with some additional water rights sold for $14 million to the private firm Summit Vineyard, LLC, which has used them to support their Lake Side power plant. Its iron ore properties were sold for $10 million to Palladon Ventures Ltd, which hopes to build a new steel mill with modern technology closer to the iron ore mines.
Geneva Steel's 7,000 tons of emission reduction credits are also for sale. In January 2006, local citizens announced they were forming a group to attempt to purchase and retire those credits in order to maintain local air quality. The exact price of the credits will be determined by the open market, but estimates of the value of the emissions reduction credits range from $350,000 to $35,000,000.
The site today
Early in 2007, the site made headlines in the Utah press, as owner Anderson Geneva made an offer to Real Salt Lake. The deal included moving their stadium to the Geneva site and they (Anderson Geneva) would offer up the land for free. The offer was subsequently turned down.
Timpanogos Harley-Davidson is located across the street from the old Geneva Steel Pipe Mill facility on the site of an old truck stop serving the many trucks that visited the plant. The building is constructed from salvaged materials and beams from various mill buildings with the interior walls, doors, and partitions coming from other mill buildings and offices.
4. Larsen, Dixon E., E. Dixon Larsen Collection on Geneva Steel,(MSS 1865), L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.